Apple’s iMessage service looks set to win a carve out from new European Union (EU) competition rules to rein in Big Tech platforms after watchdogs tentatively concluded that it isn’t popular enough with business users to warrant being hit by the regulation.
In order to fall under the scope of the rules, a service must be deemed an “important gateway” for business users. EU enforcers now consider this is not the case for iMessage, according to the sources.
If iMessage ended up being targeted by the Digital Markets Act (DMA), Apple would have faced potentially onerous obligations to make iMessage work with rival online messaging services, such as Meta’s WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – a move that Apple has already strongly contested.
Under the DMA, it will be illegal for the most powerful firms to favour their own services over those of their rivals. They’ll be barred from combining personal data across their different services, prohibited from using data they collect from third-party merchants to compete against them, and will have to allow users to download apps from rival platforms.
In September, the EU unveiled a list of 22 key services to face the rules, including Alphabet’s Google Search, Amazon’s Marketplace and Meta’s Facebook.
For Apple, its App Store, Safari browser and IOS mobile operating system were also earmarked as “core platform services”, meaning they are covered by the law.
But on top of its initial list, the EU started investigations to determine whether Apple’s iMessage should also be hit by the rules, as well as Microsoft’s Bing, Edge and Advertising services.
The Brussels-based commission declined to comment on the process. An Apple spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions from Bloomberg on the EU plans.
Meanwhile, Apple, Meta and TikTok owner ByteDance have all asked the EU courts to double check whether some of their services should come under the scope of the DMA – seen as hitting the heart of some of their most profitable business models.
The DMA’s raft of dos and don’ts come into full effect in early March. – Bloomberg